SDM’s first editor, Walter Matthews, wrote in the inaugural edition, “Magazines are usually born when a need for them exists, and they die when they are no longer needed. How successful they are between birth and death depends entirely upon how well they fill that need.”

SDM, whose formal name was Security Distributing & Marketing, was a start-up by Los Angeles-based Security World Publishing. It was an offshoot of Security World magazine which now is known as SECURITY and is still part of SDM’s family.

The first edition of SDM in January 1971 was 32 pages in length, but included advertisements from 32 companies — indeed demonstrating that security was on the verge of becoming a full-fledged industry. Yet looking back at those first few years of the publication illustrates its very humble beginnings. The first cover story was titled, “Security & the Credibility Gap,” and it centered on “overly enthused salesmen” making false claims and creating a credibility gap in the market. There was also an article about ultrasonic technology (used for motion detection), a column about sales techniques, industry news and new product departments, and a calendar of events.

Yet SDM seemed to immediately resonate with alarm installers, distributors and manufacturers. Topics throughout the 1970s covered technologies of the day:

•      ultrasonic and microwave detectors; later, photoelectric detectors and the first thermal detector, or PIR;
•      window foil; later, the more advanced shock sensors for application on glass;
•      pressure mats and under-carpet tape switch;
•      alarm controls and tape dialers; later, the latest and greatest digital alarm communicators.

Editors wrote about the UL standards and certification; the activities of NBFAA and SEIA (now SIA), and the need for the industry to find a way to get products from manufacturer to installing dealer a lot faster — thus spawning the advent of the specialty alarm distributor. Writers touched on such businesses as CCTV and access control, but it wasn’t until later in the 1970s that these products came to be regularly reported on.

A big hit was the introduction in 1972 of the department, “Kinks & Hints.” It featured tips for the alarm installer in the field, and readers were paid $15 for submissions that were published. (Kinks & Hints for many years was SDM’s most popular department. It existed until 2007, and then was transformed into “Technology Solutions & Skills.”)

As was the design of the times, all feature articles were laid out on spreads with headlines running across both pages. It was commonplace for the printer to bind the forms too closely or not align adjacent pages properly, resulting in some of the letters or entire words getting lost in the gutter. There were very few photos and those that were published were black-and-white, with perhaps a tint of color on the background of the page.

In the 1970s there were four International Security Conferences (ISCs) held each year, in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. They all were advertised to be sold out. It was a big event to travel to a show — a place to be seen as well as to see.

Towards the end of the 1970s, SDM’s writers began to discuss not only changes in the technologies being used by installers, but changes in the market, too. Residential sales were developing into a huge opportunity. The digital communicator had opened up the possibility for third-party central stations to provide a service to installers who could get into the alarm business with very little start-up costs.

Advertisements went from black-and-white to color, and more of them began to feature video cameras and door access devices. In mid-1979, Security World Publishing was acquired by Reed Holdings Inc., and published monthly by the Chicago division of Cahners Publishing Co.

It was the end of one era and the beginning of another.